IN THE MIDST of this cinematic war between WB and Marvel Studios, and despite playing second fiddle to Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, director-producer Bryan Singer has managed to stand his ground and keep the X-Men under Fox without flopping. With the success of The Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and more recently, X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seems that Singer has found the formula once again. Combining the flashy, clever sequences like Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) speedrun with the thoughtfulness of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and the President of the past film, X-Men Apocalypse deals with the aftermath.
We are taken as far back as Ancient Egypt at the height of its power, where En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), or Apocalypse to everyone else, maintains his immortality. Of course, it all goes wrong, he gets sealed underneath modern day Cairo, and he awakens in the 80s. Meanwhile, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), eager to leave his Magneto days behind him, has taken refuge in Poland as a worker, with a wife and child, while Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) continues to recruit young mutants into his school in Westchester, New York.
Off in the shadows, Mystique has begun working to free oppressed and captured mutants all around the world. Erik gets outed as Magneto, and his wife and child are killed in the process. Meanwhile, our terrifyingly blue Nubian mutant starts recruiting his Four Horsemen, consisting of a revolutionary Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a very heavy metal Archangel (Ben Hardy) and a vengeful Magneto.
While it all ties in with the themes the past films have drilled in, it does slowly turn into a formulaic, predictable story. It does provide some really good moments, some wonderful performances from the cast, with a special shoutout to Fassbender and Hoult, as well as Quicksilver. Somehow, SOMEHOW, his speedrun in the last film was topped by his performance here, to the sound of Eurythmics. It’s such a beautiful mix of what makes this Maximoff great compared to his Avenger counterpart: the cheese, and the CGI driven romp, and the 80s spirit. Heavy-handed, yes, but very much needed. Second place to this is Archangel receiving his upgraded wings to the raging riffs of Metallica, a band close to my heart.
However, all this good stuff does come at a cost. Apocalypse and his crew are woefully one dimensional: there’s not enough to sell them to the audience as people drawn to a charismatic leader. Rather, they’re cleverly placed future lieutenants with names. Even a “surprise” return from our adamantium-boned Canadian isn’t enough to raise this film above decent.
The setup for the film is very well done, all focusing on the recurring theme of controlling powers or embracing them, getting some great moments here and there. Yet it completely trips and falls flat in the final act, straight into typical Hollywood fare: giant evil base with giant evil mutant inside, beaten by previously unseen power and conveniently tight teamwork. It’s worth a watch, but don’t expect anything magical.